When you search for a book to read, do genre labels drive your choices? They certainly affect mine. If I want a fast paced, edge-of-your-seat-experience I look for a thriller. If I’m in a puzzle-solving mood, it’s off to the mystery section. And I expect them all to have elements of suspense.
And yet, on my quest to find the perfect book, I’ve seen the terms suspense and thriller used interchangeably, and instances when mysteries were labeled thrillers.
. . . .
New York Times bestselling author David Morrell says, “One crucial distinction is that traditional mysteries appeal primarily to the mind and emphasize the logical solution to a puzzle.”
Most of the books I read are mysteries, so this made sense to me. But I wanted more detail so I decided to dig a little deeper.
In her article, The Curious Case of the Appeal of Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense, librarian Becky Spratford writes, “A mystery is a story in which a crime is committed and the “whodunit” and why is unknown until the very end.”
Bestselling crime author Joel Goldman defines it in a slightly different way, “A mystery is built around a secret and usually asks the question “Who?” Something has already happened – a jewel has been stolen, a person has been murdered – and both the reader and hero know about it. The whole novel is dedicated to uncovering who is responsible for that event.”
. . . .
The definition of a mystery seemed pretty clear, so I wondered if the ambiguity was between thriller and suspense. David Morrell says, “Thrillers strive for heightened emotions and emphasize the sensations of what might be called an obstacle race and a scavenger hunt.”
. . . .
“In a thriller, a reader usually asks the question ‘How?’ and is propelled through the story by action.” Joel Goldman contends. “Both the reader and the hero of a thriller novel already know who’s responsible for the crime, and both are waiting to see how that criminal will be brought to justice.”
Becky Spratford writes, “A thriller centers on a particular profession such as espionage, law, or medicine. Solving the crime and the puzzle it presents takes a back seat to the jargon of the profession, the potential dangers faced by those involved in it, and the fast-paced, cinematic action of these stories. Thrillers often feature a loner hero who operates under his or her own moral code and the storylines are marked by the cat-and-mouse chase between the hero and villain.”
Link to the rest at dyiMFA